2011 Stories: Listeria Outbreak Reaches Sheridan

2011 Stories: Listeria Outbreak Reaches Sheridan

One of the bigger national stories of 2011 reached our community in September, when a Sheridan County woman died as a result of eating a Listeria-tainted cantaloupe.

The unidentified Sheridan County victim was one of 25 across the country killed by an outbreak that originated at a farm in Colorado. The Center for Disease Control called it the deadliest known outbreak of food-borne illness in 25 years.

Kentz Willis is an educator with the University of Wyoming Extension office in Sheridan, and teaches a wide array of topics in five northeastern Wyoming counties from nutrition to food safety.

He says that the Listeria incident was a good reminder of how important it is to wash your fruit, no matter what.

The common belief may be that fruit with an exterior that isn't eaten – like a banana or a cantaloupe – excuses the consumer from washing it. Willis says this is not true.

The outbreak originated at Jensen Farms in Holly, Colorado and more than 100 got sick nationwide.

Two other Wyoming residents were sickened, but the Sheridan-area victim was the only death in the state. The Wyoming Department of Health never released the name of the deceased Sheridan County woman, but said that she was elderly. In fact, Listeria hit hardest in the elderly, pregnant women and those with previous health issues.

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Kentz Willis is an educator with the University of Wyoming Extension office and teaches a wide array of topics including: Teaching young kids how to wash hands, teenage kids basic nutrition and cooking skills, adults with diabetes, individuals with fast food industry in food safety practices.

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